Watchdog: Successful Interagency Partnerships Built on Trust, Communication

Maksim Shmeljov/

Interagency goals such as food safety and homeland security are best met when leaders from different federal organizations establish trust and achieve early wins, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

“Low-hanging fruit,” or feasible steps that can be completed short term, have “allowed officials to establish relationships with their counterparts in other agencies and enabled teams to practice working together,” the watchdog found in interviews over the past 14 months with participants from nine agencies on four interagency bodies.

“Officials from the groups reported that achieving early wins, allowed participants to build upon recent experiences, working relationships, improved knowledge of related programs, and team structures that had been established to coordinate group activities,” the report said.

The Feb. 14 report is part of a series required under the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act in which GAO is examining the extent to which the government’s priority goals are being pursued with clear and measureable outcomes, accountability, collaboration and adequate resources.

GAO interviewed participants in interagency bodies devoted to issues of homelessness, the reentry of former inmates into society, rental housing policy, and the education of military dependent students. Auditors also sought feedback from recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, who had experience with interagency collaboration, to learn which approaches are most successful.

Successful leaders of interagency working groups, the interviews revealed, exhibit five competencies: they worked well with people, communicated openly with a range of stakeholders, built and maintained relationships, understood other points of view, and set a vision for the group. Participants are more likely to attend meetings and stay involved, auditors found, if leaders have a direct relationship with the president, Congress other high-level officials.

GAO interviewed employees at the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, along with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

In the long term, “federal agencies will need to work even more closely with other agencies to leverage more limited resources to achieve their missions in the current fiscally constrained environment,” GAO noted.

The interim report included no recommendations.


(Image via bochimsang12/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.